Growing up in a small town in Southern New Jersey

Friday, August 31, 2007

Uncle Harry

Uncle Harry was quite a character, not unlike my father. Uncle Harry was my father's uncle by marriage, not by birth. Uncle Harry married my father's father's (Charles) sister (Kathryn). Is that clear? No? Oh well. Maybe you'll get the picture as I move along with this rambling.

My father's mother (Bertha) died when my father was 9 years old, in the flu epidemic of 1918. His dad did not remarry for a long time, so my father lived with Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Harry, and I supposed his father lived with them as well. Uncle Harry had two children, Alberta and Herb. Alberta was several years younger than my father, but through the years she was really a sister to him.

Back to Uncle Harry.

Uncle Harry could come to visit us. Uncle Harry was nearly blind, even with glasses. Sort of like Mr. Magoo. Anyway, Uncle Harry lived in North Philly, and he took the trolley down to center city, and then hopped on a bus and would just show up, unannounced from time to time. We never minded because he was so funny. But, I can't remember why we thought he was so funny. Maybe it was because he paid attention to us and told us stories.

Anyway, he would just show up, and the first thing he would do is sit down and read the paper. Now, for Uncle Harry to read the paper, he would raise his glasses onto his forehead, and put the paper to his nose, and read it without his glasses. He said his arms weren't long enough, and if he used his glasses he would have to put the paper across the room, and getting up to turn the pages would be too much of a nuisance.

Uncle Harry was an inventor. He had several patents. One he loved to show us was a button hooker. It was a gadget, perhaps you've seen it, that looped over a button. It had a handle, and you put the button in the loop part, and pulled the loop (and button ) through the button hole. They came in various sizes for different size buttons and they were available at Wanamakers in the "Notions" department (that's buttons and bows to you young people who have never experienced a trek to the "Notions" department of a department store.

Anyway, whenever he came unannounced, mom would quickly make up a batch of spaghetti, because that was Uncle Harry's favorite meal.

He lived to be 105, and ate what he wanted until he died. He never worried about eating hot stuff, or fatty stuff, or lots of veggies, or no salt. He just ate what he enjoyed and one day he just didn't wake up.

The Shore

I now live in the Midwest. No one here says "I'm going to the shore" or "I was at the shore" for my vacation. If I mention that I'm going to the shore to a neighbor, they often ask, "Is that a new restaurant?"

In Jersey, if you said you were at the shore, everyone knew what you were talking about. You were down ON THE BEACH in SOUTH JERSEY, which meant one of a number of towns, Ocean City, Wildwood, Atlantic City (before the casinos), or Cape May. There were other towns between Atlantic City and Cape May (the southern end of the Jersey Shore), but mainly people went to the shore at the more populated areas.

My dad never had a car, which meant our family didn't have a car. If I didn't have such wonderful Uncles (both named Joe) I would not have gotten to the shore until I was a teenager and had friends that had "wheels". However, these wonderful uncles took our family (without my father) to the shore several times each summer.

Back then it was almost a two hour drive to get from Runnemede to Ocean City or Whale Beach, our favorite haunts. After the Atlantic City Expressway was built, it put the travel time down to 45 minutes, an hour at the most, mainly because you didn't go through every town along THE PIKE, and the speed limit on the Expressway was at that time 60 MPH, whereas, the highest speed on THE PIKE was 45 MPH, and slower in the towns, of which there were many.

Several folks who attended our church had homes in Whale Beach (just south of Ocean City) so we often went there, because they were kind enough to let us use their beach (and bathrooms). Until the big storm in the early 1960s that washed Whale Beach off the map -- I mean it literally washed away every home on that narrow spit of land between the bay and the ocean -- Whale Beach was our shore of choice. Ocean City was our second choice.

I think my Aunt Anne liked Ocean City better, so when Uncle Joe (her husband, my mom's brother-in-law) took us we went to Ocean City. When my other Uncle Joe (my mom's brother) took us, he just went where we wanted to go.

Now picture this: Uncle Joe Sbaraglia (my mom's brother) did NOT have a station wagon, yet he loaded me, my sister, my younger brother, my mom, and his two children into the car and off we went. A bit crowded, but it was fun.

Mom always packed the lunch. Most days she packed sandwiches, which became SANDwiches, meaning, there was more SAND than sandwich, because invariably at lunch time a strong on-shore breeze would come up, and blow sand into our lunches. We didn't care. We would have gone without, because we knew that for dinner we were going to the Boardwalk. Not the one in Atlantic City, the one in Ocean City.

No matter which "shore" we spent the day at, in the evening we went to the Boardwalk in Ocean City. You know why? Because Johnson's popcorn was there, and they had the best, best, best popcorn in the world. Just plain popcorn, but loaded with butter! That's what made it so good. And, then, of course, we bought a box of salt water taffy for my dad, who kindly shared it sparingly with his children.

I don't mean to imply that we spent a lot of days at the shore, probably three per summer, until I was a teenager and was able to find rides from friends. But those few days per summer were our vacation and we loved them (and the days with our Uncle Joes).

When my husband, Alan, and I were going together, before we were married and moved away, we spend as many days at the shore as we could in the summer time. Hey, it was a cheap date. All I had to do was pack a lunch, gas was at most 30 cents a gallon, and off we went. It didn't cost anything to park in Ocean City at that time, and the beach was free. Is it still free? I don't know. The last time I was in Ocean City was three or four years ago, and I don't recall if we paid to get on the beach, but I know we did pay to park.

Sometimes I get a yen to go to the shore, but the drive is too long -- 675 miles from here -- so I stay home and dream.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Back to school

In earlier posts, I mentioned a few of my school experiences. This is a picture of the first school I attended, Downing school. It is the school that sits across the street from my childhood home. This, however, is the Third Avenue side of the school, and we were on the Second Avenue side.
The picture is rather old, because the windows in the school have all been replaced, and the trees are much, much larger. This picture was probably taken about the time I was going there.
See the steps on the right hand side of the picture. That's the teacher's entrance. I used to climb to the top of those steps and then jump off the side onto the ground. Quite a drop when you're only 3-1/2 feet tall!

I attended public school in Runnemede for kindergarten through eighth grade, and then high school at Triton Regional, which is located in Runnemede.

I started school in 1948 and at that time full-day kindergarten was the norm. The only difference in the kindergarten schedule and the "upper" grades schedule was that we were released at 11:30 a.m. for lunch, which gave us an hour-an-a-half to get home, get our lunch, and return to school for the afternoon session, which began at 1:00 pm. Then we were released at 3:00 p.m., which was a half-hour earlier than the rest of the classes.

School started the day after Labor Day, and ended the second Friday in June, which was followed by two weeks of Daily Vacation Bible School.

We had a 15-minute snack time around 10:15 in the morning, and we could buy milk and cookies, or bring our own snacks. Stick pretzels were a penny a piece, a 1/2 pint of milk was a nickle, and cookies were 2 cents each. I remember one of my classmates, whose name I won't mention, always threw up after he drank his milk. "He/his" is as personal as I will get on that subject. No need to embarrass him. He is still alive, and may read this. Who knows?

We did not have pre-school or nursery school in those days, and in kindergarten we started "blind" so to speak. While I knew my alphabet from the alphabet song, most children didn't. So we learned the alphabet. We learned how to hold a pencil and use it. We learned how to read phonetically, and we learned how to count to 100. We learned simple addition facts and subtraction facts. We learned to spell a few simple words.

I remember the day I had to recite the numbers from 1 to 100 and boy was I nervous! I did it though, no mistakes.

I loved reading, and made it into the "A" group -- I think it was a color, red, maybe? But I knew that it was the best group. We were the children who could read out loud without stumbling over the words. There were three reading groups in a class of 28 children. Anyway, who can forget Run, Dick, Run! See Dick run! Run, Jane, Run! See Jane run! Run, Spot, run! See Spot run! Of course, once I learned to read, I read a lot. Playing after school always included piano practice, reading some Golden book, and pushing a doll carriage, wearing my mom's high heels.

I remember one day I didn't go directly home after school because one of my classmates invited me to her house after school. I didn't tell my mom or dad I was going to her house -- she only lived two blocks away from our house -- but my mom was in a panic because I didn't come home. Since we lived across the street from the school, I should have been home at the latest at 3:05, but she found me playing in the street at my friends house around 4:00 p.m. Well, I got hugged, and kissed, and then....I got punished. In those days the only punishment that matters was getting swatted with a ruler, or wooden spoon. Yes, it hurt -- not that much, though, but it also instilled in me that there were rules and if the rules were not complied with, there would be punishment, or discomfort. Rule #1: Come directly home from school, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Mrs. Gardner was my teacher and she was such a nice lady. My sister and brother (the older one, not older than me, but the older of my two brothers) had her for their kindergarten teacher as well.

I don't remember what year they stopped the all-day kindergarten, but it was at least three years later because my sister went to full-day kindergarten.

We went to school in rain, snow, sleet, no heat in the school, no air conditioning in the school, and through measles epidemics. School was NOT closed. It wasn't until I was in 4th grade and we had a 3-foot snow fall, that the school was ever closed. Who knew there was such a thing as a snow day?

More remembrances on school another time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Doctors and doctoring

My parents didn't take us to the doctor very often -- of course back in the "old days" the doctor usually came to you. Same thing. My dad believed in "homeopathy" -- that is the medical philosophy that like cures like. If you got bit by a bee youd swallow bee venom to relieve the itching, you got bit by a snake, you'd ingest snake venom to cure the effects of the bite, etc. And any other healing was done with natural -- not man made -- products. Since I can remember how dad "cured" us when we were growing up, I still enjoy the benefits of homeopathy for some of my ailments -- real or perceived. My favorite website is:

Our town, at the time I was growing up, had three doctors -- dad and mom weren't hung up on one or the other, we saw all three at one time or another, and then dad liked a doctor who resided in Haddon Heights -- Dr. Paisley-- because he went along with the homeopathy daddy liked to treat us with. And...Dr. Paisley made house calls, all the way from Haddon Heights. The doctors in Runnemede at that time were Dr. Palmisano (I finally went to him exclusively for a while just before I got married, and then afterwards while we still lived in New Jersey); Dr. Fessman (he retired when I was a teenagerand he was the doctor who treated emergencies, like broken limbs because he was basically across the street); and Dr. Lovitt (he was an osteopath, and we saw him very, very rarely).

Don't think we saw Dr. Paisley or any of the other doctors very often, though. Dad had his own cures and cures they were. We had our normal childhood diseases -- there were no inoculations back then and so when measles or chicken pox or mumps or whooping cough were going around, we got them and we were quarantined. That was a time when we HAD to have a doctor -- law required a posting on the door of a sign that our house was contaminated, and a doctor had to verify that it was true. Let's see, meales was a red sign, mumps was a blue sign, chicken pox was a yellow sign, and I think whooping cough was a green sign. No one in our family ever got whooping cough, and by the time my brothers were born, there was a vaccine available for that and we all got the shots.

I digress.

Dad's cure for itch was witch hazel. I still use witch hazel a lot. Using Witch Hazel is like the use of Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Zits, sunburn, mosquito bites, ivy poison, prickly heat, even diaper rash. Dad's cure for cramps was a shot of brandy -- horrible stuff, and while I'm not so sure it really worked well, after an hour a 90-pound teenager was feeling no pain.

If we complained of something, dad would take our temperature with his hand on our forehead, and if we felt hot, THEN he'd get out the thermometer. He'd tell us in advance what his guess for our temperature was by his feeling, then confirm it with the thermometer. I don't recall he was ever wrong.

Dad did realize the benefits of penicillin and when the Hong Kong flu hit in the early 60s, I got it bad. I was very sick. Dad dosed us up with his potions and got the doctor to prescribe penicillin for that extra punch. I do remember that by evening each day I was feeling great and determined to go to school the next day, however, since I wasn't getting any homeopathy between 7 pm and 7 am (that's 12 hours) by the next morning I was down and out again. Finally, after a week, I was back in school, weak as could be, but no fever.

My younger brother Mark had pleurisy when he was quite young. I remember the croop pot that was set up in his bedroom. He got pitifully thin, and dad allowed Dr. Paisley to treat him, but we'll never know what got him better, dad's croup pot or Dr. Paisley's liquid cough medicine. I know my son will want to know what a "croop pot" is. Well, it was like a vaporizer, but it was a small, pottery thing, that had some stinking stuff put in it that was supposed to open the nasal passages and broncial tubes and give the person near the pot the ability to breathe freely. I wonder what ever happened to that pot. I know it was stored in the bathroom linen closet for years. Actually the smell wasn't too bad and it wasn't like Vicks, it had a unique smell, but I can't recal what herbs dad used in that thing to relieve us kids of croop.

I wish I could remember some of the other treatments dad used. I have some of his "text" books on the subject. I've looked through them. I've read them. But I don't have the mind to remember them as he did.

Of course, mom being Italian had her own means for getting us better as well. And, chicken soup was one of them. Also, olive oil was another medicine -- a spoonful of it. I've learned what good olive oil is mostly from the WWW, but my mom knew all that from her mom, who knew it from her mom, etc.

I guess I've rambled enough for today. Take care.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Just rambling

I was trying to think what I was going to write about today. I'm trying to add to this "history" for my family of my time in Runnemede and making it a daily "event" for me. But I'm having writer's block today.

Not related to Runnemede, but my best friend here in KY had a mastectomy today. She's been such a faithful, prayerful friend to me, even when I'm an ugly, mean-tempered, hurtful person, she still loves me and encourages me, and tells me to "be nice" when I need to hear that. Anyway, Praise the Lord! She came through the surgery just great, and the nodes they removed appear to be benign. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, and as her doctor put it, it was a "very aggressive" type. Today, when they operated, the doctor was "dumbfounded" that the breast tissue they removed appeared healthy, and the nodes "appear to be benign." We'll know definitely whether they are benign in a few days, but our God is so faithful, and Nancy has been the object of so many prayers to the Great Physician, God the Father, for many weeks now. We're believing she has been healed.

I know some in Runnemede who were healed of terrible cancer diagnoses -- one especially dear person is Aunt Marion. I remember when Uncle Bill told us, he was so upset, but when she was found to be cancer free, I also remember the rejoicing, and also the fact that we all knew that God had healed her -- not the doctor, but God. And Aunt Marion was a faithful server to our Lord, Jesus Christ for the all years she had left, which were many. She was another prayer warrior and I know my husband and I were the subject on many occasions that she brought to the Throne of God.

Thank you Aunt Marion, Uncle Bill, and Nancy!!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Release time


What's "release time."

Well, when I was a child, in my early grades in school (that would be K-3) there was a program. Every Tuesday and Thursday children were released to go to church! Can you believe that? It was called "Release Time."

There were three churches in our town -- Mt. Calvary Union Church (shown), Trinity Lutheran Church (my best school friend's dad was pastor at that church), and St. Teresa's Catholic Church.

So, who went where? All three churches participated. Our parents were given the choice. Mostly the children who attended Mt. Calvary with their parents went to release time at Mt. Calvary, those to attended the Lutheran Church attended Trinity Lutheran's program, and those who were parishioners at St. Theresa's went there. If a child was unchurch, his/her parent was given a choice for the child to participate or stay in school and do whatever kids did when most of the class was gone. Actually, I don't remember ANY child staying back in school while the rest of us went to Release Time. So, if a child did stay back, I don't imagine any stigma was attached to that child. Who cared? We were so glad to get to church twice a week -- after all it was like Sunday school -- mid-week.

What did we do? Well, we memorized Scripture, we were told Bible stories, were taught the ethics of the Bible, and we had a craft project (sometimes). I loved Release Time, and not because I was getting out of school -- I really liked going to school. I loved Release Time because it was another hour or two in church with my friends from church.

What about my best friend? Well, she, of course, went to the Lutheran Release time. I recall several times, however, when both churches (Lutheran and Mt. Calvary) combined their Release Time sessions. After all we shared the same Bible and same belief that Jesus Christ was sent by his Father, God, to save us from our sins, and that he died, was buried, and rose again for us.

Anyway, that's "Release Time." What a shame that isn't an option any more; nor is the daily Bible reading we had before saying the Lord's Prayer and then pledging allegiance to the flag.

I learned a lot of Scripture just from the daily Bible reading -- I'll cover that another time, I suppose.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wakeful nights

Do you ever stay awake at night because your brain just won't stop thinking about something? Well, I do. Last night, for instance, I was thinking about what I was going to add to these few blogs I've already posted. I finally fell asleep thinking of the town's annual Fourth of July parade.

Now, remember, this is from when I was a girl, and the parades I remember were in the late 40s, the 50s, and early 60s.

Changes occurred during those three decades. First, the parades were held on "The Pike." Starting down at the Catholic Church (corner of The Pike and Evesham Rd) and moving north on the pike, ending up at 8th Avenue -- after the Little League field was put in, the parades ended there. I think I have the parade going in the right direction. At least my "elderly" brain says that logically it would be that way, since once the parade dispersed the 4th of July town events would begin -- sack races, three-legged races, pie-eating contest, etc., and then the ball games. All the prizes for winning the games were money prizes, too. Wow! For a kid who rarely had money, it was a prize to try to win.

I won several prizes through the years, including the pie-eating contest.

But, I digress. Before the main parade there was the baby parade -- that was held on Clements Bridge Road, and only ran for a couple of blocks -- from Johnson Avenue down to the VFW hall. And then there was the bicycle parade -- once again prizes were money. My mom never entered in the baby parade, even though she had three more after me. But it was fun to see how new mom's decorated their baby buggies (called coaches back then) with crepe paper and flags. It was all very patriotic.

The bicycle parade was something I entered every year from the time I was in third grade (didn't have a bike before that, or even a trike). Anyway, I entered, but don't remember ever winning that contest. So many kids were more artistic than I and my mom and dad wouldn't offer any help other than to say, "That's nice, Judith." I tried the red, white, and blue crepe paper woven in the spokes of the wheels trick. Somebody else did that four times in each wheel. How would my one time through win over that? I tried putting several small flags positioned in various spots on the bike, someone else did the same thing, but they had little 5-flag holders to hold their flags very symetrically on the handle bars, seat, and tail seat. In othose days bikes had a tail seat.
My bike was like the picture at the top (notice the tail seat) except it was used, so it had been repainted, and it was royal blue, not this baby blue as pictures. That bike was mine, then my sister's. I rode that bike to school (after second grade when I was transferred across town -- but that's another story) everyday, until my little legs were long enough to allow me to walk fast enough to get home for lunch and back to school in the space of one hour.
Anyway, back to the 4th of July. As my sister and brothers and I got older, 4th of July changed some. That is to say, I got too old to particpate in the three-legged race, and my brother grew up and played baseball in the Babe Ruth League (playoffs of some sort were held on the 4th of July). But we still had that parade to view. In the late 50s the parade was moved from the Pike to Central Avenue -- because the Pike was one of the main routes to the shore -- that was before the Atlantic City Expressway was finished. So with the parade on Central Avenue, we had more time to do other things on the 4th. So, the 4th of July became a family day -- Mom's family day, that is.
I'll talk more about my mother's family in future BLOGs.
At the end of the day, we'd all head down to the ballfields, again, to watch the fireworks. We could see them from our house, at least the high ones, because they were higher than the highest trees, and the houses, but going to the ballfield gave you such a great view. Right underneath the sprays.
We'd ooh and ahh until the show ended. It always started at exactly 9 pm, even though we thought it was dark enough before that, and ended at 9:45 pm. Then we'd walk the 7 blocks back home. Yes, in those days, we walked, we didn't drive. Some rode their bikes, I suppose, but most people walked.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Piano lessons

I started taking piano lessons when I was 7. My first piano teacher was our church pianist, Mrs. Strike. I loved her as a teacher, and was truly, truly disappointed when she decided she couldn't teach me anymore.
The picture above is me at my first recital. I was so proud that day. But there is, of course, a story that goes along with the first recital picture.
I can't remember the title of the piece is was some Mozart sonata. And my new teacher (Miss Dolores) had told me I had to slow down; that I was playing the piece much too fast. I am now 9 years old, and understood fully what slow down meant. But, did that matter? No, of course not. When I took my seat at the piano, my first and foremost thought was to play the piece without a mistake. I did. No mistakes -- just one -- I played it way too fast. My fingers fairly flew across those keys. I still got applause from the audience. I was not the only student playing in this particular recital. There were many of us -- all students at the Hegaman School of Music in Runnemede, NJ. It was on "The Pike" just north of 8th Avenue. I believe there is a florist in that building now.
Anyway, it was one of the rare times that I got a new dress (not a hand-me-down). This dress was particularly beautiful -- I thought. I was a pale pink, dotted swiss material. And it was in style (something most of my hand-me-down clothes were not).
I guess I should be grateful for all the hand-me-down clothes my family received. Most of the clothes were nice, albeit a bit old-fashioned.
Back to the subject at hand. I took piano lessons for 10 years. I took organ lessons for 6 years, and I took violin lessons for 4 years. I played in the Hegaman School of Music orchestra (violin), and I played the piano and/or the organ at church from my 12th year on.
I loved to play the piano. And the faster the piece, the better I liked it. My hands were small, so playing pieces with lots of stretched out chords was difficult, and I often had to leave off one of the notes. My friend, Kathy, was so good at the chorded music, and I envied her having larger hands and being able to play the more agressive music like Grieg's piano concerto. I was stuck with Bach and Mozart.
I loved (still do) playing Bach. It was like a puzzle to me, fitting the musical pieces together to form a beautiful piece of music.
When I practiced, if I made a mistake my dad would call out, "Judith, play it right." And even if he was out in the yard, or talking with someone outdoor, if he heard me make a mistake he'd yell, "Judith, play it right."
One time I went to a symphony concert in Cincinnat, OH and the piece was something by Mahler. It was quite discordent in spots, and I wanted to badly to yell "Play it right," even though I knew the orchestra was playing it right.
I'm pleased that a couple of my grandchildren are taking to the piano. I pray that at least one of them will enjoy it as much as I did.


My son told me I should insert a map of Runnemede so people will know from wence I cometh. Easier said than done. But watch for it. One of these days I'll add a map, and pictures of my reminiscenses.

If you're really curious about the places I mentioned you can go to Mapquest and bring up Runnemede, New Jersey. That map is handy-dandy and since Runnemede isn't that big, you can see most of the town -- both sides of "The Pike" in one frame.

If you're looking for where I lived, I'm not sure of the legalities of pointing out my homestead since there are people living in the house who might not want a bunch of people gawking at the house. Just to say, that if I include a picture of the family home today, you would be able to find it. It has been changed some, not bad changes, either. When I lived in the house it was always all white, with a green roof. Now it's colorful.

Speaking of "all white houses."

When I was in first grade my teacher was Mrs. Marcantoinio (she married mid-year, and was Miss Bachelor before that). Anyway, we had an assignment. In our "Think and Do" workbook there was a picture to color. It was a picture of a house surrounded by a picket fence, with a few trees in the background. I did, what I thought was an exemplary job of coloring that picture.

I made one mistake, though. I colored the house with a white crayon, ditto on the picket fence. Mrs. M thought I didn't finish the assignment and gave me an "F". Well, for an all "A" student, that was a real bummer. So I pointed out to her that I had colored the entire picture and even used my finger nail to push some of the white crayon off the page (not bad for a first-grader, right?). Well, Mrs. M thought I was being sassy and sent me to the principal's office.

Those were the days when you didn't just go to the principal's office and get a talking to. Noooo! The principal called your father, and your father was forced to come to the school to collect you and find out first-hand that you had been naughty or not nice.

I don't recall being punished by my father, whom I feared more than the principal (Mrs. French), but I do recall my father agreeing that I had indeed colored the picture, and quite well, I might add.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Being a child in Runnemede in the 40s and 50s

As I mentioned at the beginning I started my life in Runnemede -- my time in the town lasted for 22 years -- when I was a year old. We had no town playground. The little league/Babe Ruth baseball field was put in I think in the early 50s. I remember the first time I went to a ball game I was 9 or 10. You know what was so great about those little league games? The french fries from the concession stand, and those frozen Three Musketeers bars. Yummm! No one made fries like those ladies who ran the concession stand.

While I'm thinking about it. On the southeast corner of the Pike and Clements Bridge road, there was a snowball stand -- opened only in the summer. For a dime you could get a great snowcone. My favorite flavor was rootbeer, but I also enjoyed chocolate, grape, and cherry. That was before the 7-11 went in. Way before the 7-11 went in. But that's where it was located.

So what did we do for play in those days before TV, or when TV was just beginning? Well, I remember one day I built a house out of mud. Well, not really, but I laid a good foundation. I found that when my walls were about 4 inches high, they started to implode on themselves. I played with something akin to legos, but they weren't legos. They were made of particle board, or something like that, and they were shaped like bricks. I built houses with those bricks, day in and day out. And where did I do that? On the floor of the only closet in the house -- it was my sanctuary.

No child of mine would ever be able to play on my closet floor, because to me the closet floor is just more space to store things. But not my mom. The closet floor was kept clear, no shoes, no bags, nothing, just me, playing with my bricks.

I recall sitting on the curb on Clements Bridge Road -- something you couldn't do these days because traffic is so heavy on that road -- and I sat there and looked for Studebakers. I loved those cars. My friend, Linda and I, would have contests -- she looked for Fords, and I looked for Studebakers. She always won, but I didn't care. I just like to look for Studebakers. Isn't that silly?

Linda's dad built a playhouse, I would guess it was 6 by 6 and we played with our dolls and I had a doll coach and my mom sewed clothes for my doll, and I was a mommy, as was Linda. Her dad also built a sliding board -- it was made of wood, but it was so smoothe and we never got a splinter. To make it more slippery, we would slide down it on wax paper a few times, then it was really slick. It was higher than any sliding board I've seen in any swing-set kit you can buy today. And, it was not flat, but it was curved at the top and bottom. Linda lived three doors away from our house.

Linda was a 1/2 year old than I, so she started school before I did. And one day, I wanted to go to school because Linda, my best friend was in school, and the 4-year-old mind of mine couldn't understand why she was having all that fun in school, and I was alone in my mom's closet building play houses with play bricks.

So, I marched over to the school and walked in. The school was located across the street from our house -- which really made it convenient for me to walk in. I don't think I got very far before I was escorted from the premises and sweetly told by Mrs. French (the principal) that I would enjoy all the benefits of school in one short year -- easy for her to say -- years are shorter when your "old", but when you're young a year is forever.

Some time I'll post something about schools in Runnemede. I still see those rooms, those tall windows, the cloak rooms. And back in those days there was no lunchroom. I wonder if they have lunchrooms in the Runnemede schools nowdays.

More on the pike

Well, when I was about seven or so, the Santa House was moved from the firehouse to the Runnemede Town Hall (being elderly I don't recall the name, maybe it was municipal hall). And there was a day in early December when Santa took up residence for an hour or so a day, and you could sit on his lap, tell him what you wanted for Christmas and walk away with a candy cane. Unfortunately, this was in a small town, and a second trip to Santa's lap was not tolerated (by Santa himself, because he remembered a previous visit).

But, I loved living in Runnemede. I loved the small house we lived in. I loved the front porch, and being able to just sit out there on a nice day -- and there were more nice ones than not-so-nice ones -- and read a book. Even in my early years, I loved to read.

Remembering part 2 -- The Pike

This is a picture of the corner of Clements Bridge and the Pike. At this time it was an Italian grocery store. The entrance is right on the corner. It changed in the late 50s to a vacuum cleaner store, and I while the building has been refaced, it is still there, and I think it's still a vacuum cleaner store. I walked to this place almost daily to get fresh Italian bread or rolls for lunch or dinner -- at least in the summer time. Mom would give me a list if she needed more than bread and I would get everything on that list. I felt so grown up to be able to do that.
Well, I left off at my second remembrance of Runemede. That event was the birth of my sister, Debbie. I was just shy of three years old when that happened. I can't say I was thrilled, or that I wasn't. I didn't treat her like a doll, though. It seems to me she and mom came home from the hospital -- mom had been in for 8 days or so -- that's how they did it back then -- and right after we got our family back together, it was my third birthday. I do remember it was cold when Mom and Deb came home because the baby was wrapped in at least three blankets, a snowsuit of sorts and sweater and hat. She must have weight 30 pounds with all that paraphernalia on her.

I suppose from there on I am living on small pockets of my remembering.

This past summer we went to a "small town" for two weeks. What is is about small towns that evokes nostalgia. Actually Cody, WY is larger than Runnemede, and the main street is about as long, but it's a tourist town, so there are shops and bookstores, and an old hotel from the days of Buffalo Bill Cody, and a couple of restaurants.

I remember when Runnemede had a fine main street -- at least to me, a child, it was fine.

I used to love walking down to the pike (you see on the east side of the pike you went down to the pike, on the west side you went up to the pike -- maybe because there was a slight downward grade to the pike on our side of town, and slight upgrade on the other side?). The stores -- there were a few, which I'll mention as I go along -- always had their windows "decorated". I especially loved touring the windows -- it's called window shopping -- at Christmas time. Let's see, I'd start at Marston's Jewelry store (corner of third and the pike), then walk down and look into Joe's news shop -- there was a grocery store on the corner of third and the pike when I lived there, until the furniture store took its' place. Then on to Leap's (also a grocery store, which became Binkley's 5 & 10. Then down to the deli, and on to the post office -- which was on the corner of Clements Bridge and the Pike. Then I'd cross back over the pike (at the light) and walk back toward Third Avenue to see those stores' windows. I recall an Italian grocer on the NE corner (where the vacuum cleaner store is) of Clements Bridge and the Pike. I know it was there because it was the best place to get fresh Italian rolls and bread (for 25 cents a loaf). It also had a pickle barrel. But then, so did Leap's. For a nickle I was in heaven for 10 minutes or so sucking on that pickle and then eating it.

Next -- heading north on the Pike -- was Dinks -- it was just a store that had little nick-nacks. Apparently, you know you're from South Jersey if you remember Dinks (there's a website about being from South Jersey that says this) if you put a nickle in the can for the paper and took a paper because no one was minding the store. Oh, yes, there was a restaurant inbetween Dinks and the grocery store. We ate there only a few times. I think it was called Webers.

Then came the lumber/hardware store. Then was a bakery and they had the best cream donuts -- well, not as good as Kelly's bakery in Glendora, but that was too far to walk when I was 5 or 6. And I was allowed to walk alone, no adult going with me to make sure I wasn't stolen or anything. And everyone in town, at least along the pike knew Judi Drexler. Next in the line was Pitt's Drug Store. Those windows were the best, year round, they were the best.

Pitt's Drug store had a soda fountain (as did Joe's), and he had magazines/comics for a dime, and perfume (gift for mommy). I played with his daughter occasionally, but since she lived a full three blocks from our house, it wasn't a daily event.

Crossing First Avenue, moving north toward Third Avenue, on the corner was a shoe store -- the kind that had the x-ray machine in it. Then next to that was Jake's five and ten. My Favorite store of all time. Jake had about 200 square feet (if that much) of junk, but what junk it was. Pencils, pens, notebooks, plastic toys that would break if you looked at them wrong, and he had candy -- penny candy. Candy cigarettes were three for a penny, and they were my favorite.

Next along the pike was the fire house -- and at Christmas that's where Santa sat, and all during the Christmas season, Christmas music played over loud speakers, and I'd just stand there and listen. Next was the Gulf gas station -- I imagine gas was 17 cents a gallon at that time. By the time I was driving it was up to a quarter a gallon. Mr. Egoff owned it.

Walking on, there was the barber shop (before they put a store on the corner of Second) and a bar (the name of which escapes me because I wasn't supposed to look at it -- on December 24, 2007 I remember that it was Freddie's). Then it was around the corner, heading away from the pike, to home.

Sometime, I'll talk about the houses I passed on these walks.

Walking is how I played and imagined and kept healthy. At this point in my life, I would do anything to be able to walk even one block and enjoy what I enjoyed back then.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Growing up

Runnemede, New Jersey was my kind of town...small, close-knit. Right on "The Pike." For those of you who aren't familiar with Runnemede, other than it's an exit off the New Jersey Turnpke, "The Pike" is the Blackhorse Pike. "The Pike" cuts Runnemede in half. No longer are the railroad tracks the dividing point in the town, nor, were they ever, I don't believe.

I wasn't born in Runnemede, but my dad became pastor of Mt. Calvary Union Church -- located on Clements Bridge Road (another town divider) in 1944, so at the tender age of one year and a few months I became a resident of Runnemede.

The first thing I remember was a hurricane that occurred in the fall of 1944 and yes, even though I was only one, I remember a couple of things about that event -- first the property where the parsonage was located lost two wild cherry trees -- they just plummeted to the ground, barely missing the house. And, second, I remember that the lights went out and we were huddled in the kitchen around the stove -- oven on -- to keep warm -- I guess it wasn't a very tropical temperature even though it was a hurricane.

The next thing I remember is...